Quoted, with permission, from American Montessori Society:
Our 2011 AMS Living Legacy, Sonnie McFarland, describes herself as an instrument whose role in the American Montessori Society is to hold the place for peace. Her life’s work is built on her belief that the “cosmic task of the Montessori community is to bring peace to the earth by unveiling the authentic child.”
As a young woman wondering what career path would sustain her interests and passions, Sonnie discovered Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook. She immediately dedicated herself to educating children for peace.
In 1972, she and her husband, Jim, founded the Shining Mountains Center for Education and Consciousness in Pueblo, CO. Sonnie directed and taught at the Montessori Children Center there until 1980, when she joined the faculty at the Montessori School of Denver. During the next 12 years, Sonnie created activities to help children experience the self-confidence and joy that are manifested in peaceful behavior.
In 1988 she wrote an article for the Holistic Education Review in which she shared what she was learning about teaching peace. The AMS Board of Directors took note and asked Sonnie to write the Society’s position paper on holistic peace education.
Shortly thereafter, the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE) sponsored a peace retreat (a precursor to subsequent AMS peace retreats), which led to a number of ways to highlight peace in Montessori education. Sonnie began collaborating with several individuals who participated in the first retreat: Aline Wolff and Dr. Betsy Coe, both living legacies themselves, as well as Dr. John Chattin-McNichols, Patti Yonka, and Ursula Thrush, all of whom continued to concentrate on peace education as their careers progressed.
Sonnie’s own commitment to peace education has deepened in the nearly 40 years she’s been following Dr. Maria Montessori’s direction “to unveil the authentic child.” In 1993, she published Shining Through: A Teacher’s Handbook on Transformation to help adults center in their own love and light so they can see the same in children.
She has also written a peace curriculum for young children entitled Honoring the Light of the Child: Activities to Nurture Peaceful Living Skills in Young Children, and Montessori Parenting—A Guide to Unveiling the Authentic Child.
Sonnie’s multi-faceted career includes Montessori teacher education and national and international consultation on peace education and parenting. Her peace curriculum has been translated for use in Taiwan, China, and Korea. She served as Head of School at the Montessori School of Denver and was a board member of the Association of Colorado Independent Schools. She currently chairs the AMS Peace Committee.
There is serendipity in Sonnie’s being named AMS Living Legacy this year, because she will be honored at our 2011 Annual Conference in Chicago, IL, where her career began. She received her AMS early childhood credential from the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center in Chicago and taught her first group of children at Northwest Suburban Montessori in Arlington Heights, IL.
Today, inspired by the majestic Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Sonnie McFarland continues her quest to bring forth the heart of the Montessori approach: being in touch with our spiritual center so that we may be models of peace.